When shopping for a phone or portable charger, you’re bound to come across the term milliamp hours, or the abbreviation mAh. Not sure what that means? It’s a simple concept, and figuring out what you need is relatively easy.
What are milliamp hours?
Milliamp hours is a unit that simply measures power over time, abbreviated as mAh. To get a better idea of how this works, let’s look at what milliamps are.
A milliampere is a measure of electric current, more specifically one-thousandth of an ampere. Amps and milliamps measure the strength of an electric current. Add hours and you have a measure of how long this current can flow at this strength.
Consider a battery as an example. If this battery can sustain a current output of one milliamp for 1 hour, you could call it a 1 mAh battery. A milliamp is a tiny amount of current, so this battery wouldn’t be very practical.
Practically we see mAh being used in every electronic device with a battery, from phones to Bluetooth speakers. These devices range in capacity from hundreds of milliamp hours to thousands, but they are all measured the same way.
One thing to note here is that milliamp hours are just a measure of capacity. They don’t dictate how fast your charger will charge a specific device. This varies by charger and depends on a number of factors such as: B. whether they support fast charging.
milliamp hours and charge capacity
The average smartphone nowadays has a battery capacity of 2,000 to 4,000 mAh. These are much larger batteries compared to flip phones and older smartphones. But as phones have evolved, the demand for batteries has increased, reducing overall battery life. This means that portable chargers are more popular than ever.
To be really useful, you need a portable charger that has at least as much battery capacity as what you’re trying to charge. Finally, an older 2,000mAh charger won’t do much for an iPhone 13 Pro Max with a 4,352mAh battery.
A charger with roughly the same capacity as your phone or tablet is better than nothing, but in this case, bigger is almost always better. Even if you’re not using your charger’s maximum capacity, having the extra juice and not needing it is often better than missing it.
However, needs can vary greatly from person to person. If you want to charge your smartphone while camping, you will need a higher capacity charger as you will likely have fewer (if any) charging options. Look for something close to 20,000, especially if you’re planning longer trips.
On the other hand, if you only want to refuel a little at the end of the day, a charger with 10,000 mAh is perfectly sufficient.
Is there such a thing as too much capacity?
The charging capacity continues to increase as the batteries in our devices become larger and larger. With that in mind, is it possible to have a charger with too much capacity for the devices you’re charging?
While there are a few downsides to having a larger load capacity, there aren’t many, and none of them are dangerous. Having a charger with many more mAh capacity than you need will not damage your devices.
Instead, the main downside to having a charger with more capacity than you need is size. More capacity means bigger batteries, which sometimes need more space to cool, so you end up with a much larger charger. This can be inconvenient when taking a charger with you on a backcountry hike, but smart packing can solve this problem.
The other disadvantage of a larger capacity battery is that it can take longer to charge. This is often not as bad as you might think, but if you use a charger on a daily basis, you probably want it to charge quickly.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to look up your phone’s battery capacity to choose a charger, just take a look at our roundup of the best portable phone chargers. While you’re at it, you might want to make sure your wall charger is up to date, too.